SpeakEasy’s The Seafarer

[The preview for this review is here.]

Last week I saw SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of The Seafarer at the Boston Center for the Arts. SpeakEasy has made a specialty of local productions of works recently premiered in New York (and more recently, London). I’ve come to expect a pretty decent standard, although generally nothing too surprising.

This particular production didn’t really change my perception, although the group certainly wasn’t helped by the substandard play which, although has some successful comedic elements, is in the end little more than a rehash of A Christmas Carol. D and I argued about the merits of the play itself, which felt poorly paced, clumsy, and completely unconvincing. No doubt better direction would have improved my reaction, although still not enough I think to cover up its defects. Ben Brantley’s review of the original New York production in the Times emphasizes the superlative acting he saw, which certainly would also have helped.

As it was, there were drawbacks to both the production and acting in SpeakEasy’s production. For one, the two leads didn’t give any sense of being brothers with a long history, thus cutting out the pivotal relationship in the play. The acting in general was adequate (although most of the Irish accents seemed a bit off to me), but the only one among the cast who was really convincing was Billy Meleady as the central character, Sharky. His wiry tension and buried anger were so well delineated that in the climactic scene when Sharky explodes it feels like a completely natural release.

Ah well. Not much else to say. The production ended last weekend, but a set of highly complimentary reviews have been collected on SpeakEasy’s website, including the Globe’s and the Phoenix’s. Haven’t come across anything I’m looking forward to in town next year in theater, but I’ll probably try to catch one of the shows at the A.R.T.

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